Arizona City Strives to Handle Mass Release of Migrant FamiliesTop Stories

October 18, 2018 14:29
Arizona City Strives to Handle Mass Release of Migrant Families

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An Arizona border city has seen a rise in migrant families this year, turning into the second-busiest crossing on the United States-Mexico border and the mass release of some of these families from federal custody earlier this week has strained the community's ability to assist them.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement - the agency that takes custody of migrants after they are processed at the border - released a sizable number of migrant families in Arizona earlier this week after running out of space to hold them.

Since then, the ensue of migrants has more or less returned to normal, migrant advocates say.

In Yuma solely, ICE released some 200 family members, said Teresa Cavendish, operations director for Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona.

But unlike Tucson or Phoenix, Yuma, with a population just over 200,000, has far fewer services to aid these families once ICE enrolls them in its Alternative to Detention program.

Catholic Community Services works with the Yuma Refugee Ministry, which usually receives less than a dozen migrants a day. But the number of families ICE released earlier this week overwhelmed the organization, forcing them to establish overflow accommodations.

"Even though (Yuma) is one of the busiest points of entry, it's still, as a community ... been able to provide fewer options for ICE to do an alternative to release programs into shelter type programs," Cavendish said.

Cavendish said she was unable to say where the families released by ICE had stayed to protect their safety.

In Tucson and Phoenix, families released by ICE in most cases arrive at migrant respite centers, which render assistance in reaching relatives. But the sizable numbers of migrants released last week strained services in those cities likewise. In consequence, several churches set up temporary shelters.

If ICE continues releasing large numbers of migrants, it will be a challenge to accommodate them, Cavendish said.

Up to now this fiscal year, the U.S. Border Patrol agents have apprehended 12,367 family members in the Yuma sector, which extends from the Yuma County line to the Imperial Sand Dunes in California.

Reckoning the number of unaccompanied minors has as well nearly doubled here this year, the entire number of Border Patrol apprehensions in the Yuma Sector is on track to reach the highest levels in a decade.

As the zero-tolerance policy and the consequent separations ensued, the number of migrant families arriving at the Yuma area decreased somewhat. But they began to outgrowth again after President Donald Trump signed an executive order in June ending the practice.

The entire number of families getting into Yuma in August, the recent statistics available, is the largest monthly total since Customs and Border Protection commenced tracking their arrival in 2013.

-Sowmya Sangam

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Arizona  ICE  migrant families  Yuma